Obamacare: Ending Special Treatment for Congress


Senator David Vitter (R–LA) has just introduced an amendment to the Energy Efficiency Act, soon scheduled for Senate floor action, that would require the President and all political appointees, as well as Congress and staff, to get health insurance on the exchanges under the same conditions as every other American.

No subsidy or tax credit would be available to a Member of Congress or staffer that would not be available to any other American.

Congress voted to take itself out of the popular and successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and require Members and staff to get their health coverage through the exchange program this year. Realizing the mess they created for themselves, congressional leaders quietly got the Obama Administration to give them special taxpayer subsidies—which are not available to any other American—to offset their health insurance costs. The problem: Neither current nor previous law provides authorization for any such subsidies.

On a separate track, Senator Ron Johnson (R–WI) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Administration’s provision of these special subsidies. As Heritage legal fellow Andrew Kloster explains: “The recent [Office of Personnel Management] final rule to provide subsidies to Members of Congress and their staff contradicts the plain language of both the FEHB Program statute and Obamacare.… Members of Congress and their staff can and should sue if and when they are injured by this unlawful scheme.”

After Senator Johnson spoke on a panel at The Heritage Foundation, 38 other prominent House and Senate conservatives joined in to support Senator Johnson’s case by filing an amicus brief.

These efforts to end the double dealing are now becoming bipartisan. Georgia Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn released a campaign ad highlighting her view on the special subsidy: “No one in Congress should get a subsidy to pay for their own health care.” Nunn is steadfast on the issue, enduring criticism from fellow Democrats that she is “adopting GOP talking points” and “distanc[ing] herself from Mr. Obama on his health care law.”

Unfair and unlawful, the Administration’s case in the court of public opinion just got tougher—no matter what happens on the Senate floor or in the federal courts.

The post Obamacare: Ending Special Treatment for Congress appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Ohio GOP Attacks Caleb Davenport for Union-Funded Incumbent

Ohio Republican Party (ORP) mailers sent this month painted Republican primary candidate Caleb Davenport, who is challenging Sen. Frank LaRose in the 27th Ohio Senate District, as an opponent of tax cuts and pro-life policies.

According to ORP, Davenport “opposed the most important pro-life bill in Ohio” and “abandoned conservative principles when he OPPOSED a bill that delivered one of the largest tax cuts in Ohio history.”

As Paula Bolyard reported at Ohio Conservative Review, the mailers attacked Davenport using House Bill 59 (HB 59), Republican Governor John Kasich’s most recent biennial budget.

HB 59 incorporated tax cuts and several pro-life provisions to increase support from legislators who might have otherwise rejected the second consecutive Kasich budget to increase state spending far in excess of inflation.

Most of HB 59′s income tax cuts were paid for with tax hikes. Davenport did not vote on the bill because Davenport has never served in the Ohio General Assembly.

ORP has spent more than $50,000 on in-kind support for LaRose – who received $11,000 from labor unions during the most recent campaign finance reporting period — in an effort to counter Davenport’s support from grassroots conservative groups.

Click any of the images below to see full-size versions of the two ORP hit pieces against Davenport.

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“This shows the amount of deception the political bosses will use in trying to maintain control,” Davenport said in a response to the pro-life mailer. “Their candidate, Frank LaRose, lost the major pro-life endorsements, so now they are trying to paint me as being against the pro-life cause.”

Bolyard, a resident of the 27th Ohio Senate District, also noted that LaRose has taken to blaming “right-wing bloggers” for divisions in the Ohio GOP during recent campaign interviews.

Davenport is endorsed by Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), Ohio Pro-Life Action, Citizens for Community Values, Ohioans for Educational Freedom, and Ohio Citizens PAC.

Davenport is also endorsed by Ohio Right to Life. An Ohio Right to Life PAC flyer comparing Davenport and LaRose points out that LaRose supports taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, among other disagreements with the pro-life group.

The post Ohio GOP Attacks Caleb Davenport for Union-Funded Incumbent appeared first on Media Trackers.

9 Obamacare Predictions That Have Come True


Photo: Pete Souza

Photo: Pete Souza

It directly affects the personal life of every American, and it controls or regulates a complex sector of the American economy that is slightly larger than the entire economy of France.

If you guessed Obamacare, you’ve been paying attention for the past four years.

Four years ago, many health policy analysts, including those at The Heritage Foundation, predicted some of the effects this law would have on Americans. These are all coming true. Here are nine of our predictions that have come to pass—and it’s not over yet.

1. The individual mandate is an enforcement nightmare.

As a candidate, President Obama worried that an individual mandate to buy insurance would be unenforceable. He changed his mind once he became president. This year—the first year that the mandate penalties are to be imposed—he has already started backtracking on the enforcement of the provision he signed into law.

2. The law will create new disincentives to work.

Between Obamacare’s higher taxes and its subsidies that drop off if you raise your income, there’s not a lot of incentive here to work harder and better your situation.

3. The law, particularly the employer mandate, will impose new costs on businesses that undercut jobs and wages.

The employer mandate has been delayed until 2015, but the uncertainty Obamacare has created—and its 18 new tax hikes—have put a huge dent in job creation.

4. The law undermines competition and further consolidates health insurance markets.

Heritage Foundation analysis of federal and state exchanges shows that the law has, in general, reduced competition and consolidated health insurance markets. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of insurers offering coverage on the individual markets in all 50 states has declined nationwide by 29 percent.

5. The law guarantees major premium increases.

As Heritage predicted, the average annual premiums for single and family coverage in 2014 are rising in the state and federal health insurance exchanges all around the country. In 11 states, premiums for 27-year-olds have more than doubled since 2013; in 13 states, premiums for 50-year-olds have increased more than 50 percent.

>>> Get more details on all of these Obamacare effects

6. The law discourages insurance enrollment among the young.

The law’s insurance rules and new benefit mandates will make it cheaper for many younger Americans simply to remain uninsured and pay the penalty fine. It’s not surprising that young people have been staying away.

7. The law’s Medicare savings would not financially strengthen Medicare.

The law’s proponents originally promised that “savings” from Medicare changes would be spent simultaneously in two places: helping Medicare and expanding Obamacare. But money can be spent only once, so that didn’t work.

8. The law’s Medicare changes will result in reduced benefits and threaten seniors’ access to care.

The law’s impact is fairly straightforward: Fewer Medicare providers, reimbursed at rates progressively reduced over time, will create access problems for patients. Medicare cuts have been underway for several years now.

9. The law compels taxpayers to fund abortion and weakens protections of the right of conscience.

Obamacare mandates health plans that include coverage of abortion. It also spawned the Health and Human Services regulatory mandate that forces American employers to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. It is safe to say that four years ago, millions of Americans did not expect that the national health care law would become a vehicle for an aggressive government infringement of personal liberty or coerce Americans to fund medical procedures and drugs in direct violation of their ethical and religious convictions.

Is it any wonder public opinion is against this debacle? It’s unfair, unworkable, and unaffordable. We need real health reform that puts patients back at the center and increases choice for Americans.

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

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Please do your part – vote Tuesday, May 6th

Since becoming a leader in Ohio’s liberty movement in 2009, every time there has been a major election I have found myself at a similar point as today. I must somehow find the words to motivate people and get them to take action that will truly make a difference. Please vote in the primary on […]

Obama Mocks Obamacare Rollout at Press Dinner: ‘That Could Have Gone Better’


At the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner last night, President Obama made a number of jokes about the rough ride of Obamacare and HealthCare.gov in 2013.

“In 2008, my slogan was ‘Yes we can.’ In 2013, my slogan was Control-Alt-Delete,” he said.

Kathleen Sebelius, who recently stepped down as Health and Human Services Secretary after the botched rollout, made an appearance to “help” the president unfreeze a video screen as part of his comedy presentation.

“I got this. I see it all the time,” Sebelius said.

>>> Related: She Dreamed Obamacare Was Harmless

The post Obama Mocks Obamacare Rollout at Press Dinner: 'That Could Have Gone Better' appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

IRS Watchdog: Obamacare Personal Data Not Secure


As the federal government continues to implement Obamacare, the IRS is the next federal agency to handle the personal financial and family information of participants. According to the Treasury Department’s inspector general, that data might not be safe.

J. Russell George told Senators he “remains concerned about the protection of confidential taxpayer data.” In addition, he believes the IRS does not have adequate systems in place to prevent people from fraudulently claiming health care tax credits to reduce their tax burden in 2014 tax returns.

Approximately 21 federal agencies are involved in various aspects of Obamacare. That’s a lot of people and systems potentially accessing your family’s Social Security numbers, household and adjusted gross income, family size, filing status, and health information. State-run exchanges also handle the same personal information.

We’ve already seen how well the government safeguards Obamacare-related data. Last fall, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, amidst reassurances of strong data security. Instead, the site has been called a “security nightmare,” and security specialists said it should have been called “Identitytheft.gov.” There were documented breaches in security and personal information, including those reported by The Foundry.

Those breaches occurred at an agency that claimed to be secure.

The IRS’s role in implementing Obamacare is to verify and process the premium tax credits being claimed by individuals and families that help pay for their coverage. Communications between the IRS via the HHS “data hub” with the state or federal exchanges go back and forth; the IRS must verify the identity of those claiming tax credits (Social Security number), their earnings, and family status.

As if worrying about security breaches isn’t bad enough, George is also “concerned that the IRS’s existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying Affordable Care Act refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax refunds.”

With predictions of 6 million claiming health care tax credits in 2014 worth $16 billion, people claiming credits they don’t deserve should be a worry. New IRS commissioner John Koskinen noted that another widely claimed credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, has an “improper payment rate [that] has remained unacceptably high throughout the program’s history.”

IRS officials say they are working on systems to deal with security and fraud, but they need more money from Congress. Last week’s revelations that the IRS awarded $2.8 million in bonuses to 2,800 employees with “substantiated” conduct problems—including those who have not paid their own income taxes—may make the request for more funding a harder sell.

The post IRS Watchdog: Obamacare Personal Data Not Secure appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Ohio Elections Panel Dismisses Complaint Against Zoo Levy Mailer

Opponents of Franklin County Issue 6, a permanent levy doubling the property taxes county residents pay to support the Columbus Zoo, successfully defended a campaign mailer against an Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) complaint this week.

Lawyer Marion Little and plaintiff Phillip Pikelny

Lawyer Marion Little and plaintiff Phillip Pikelny

Marion Little, a local attorney specializing in defending large businesses and government entities against lawsuits, represented Columbus Dispatch executive and Columbus Zoological Park Association chairman Phillip Pikelny in his complaint against Americans for Prosperity – Ohio (AFP Ohio).

Under a state law being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Pikelny filed an OEC complaint against the group on April 25, alleging that a recent anti-levy mailer contained lies for which AFP Ohio should be penalized.

In his opening statement, Little sneered at the defendants as “our friends from out of town,” claiming that AFP “turned a blind eye, once again, to the truth” and intentionally sought to “mislead the voters” with the mailer asserting that Issue 6 would increase property taxes by 105 percent.

AFP Ohio attorney Mark Weaver — a former Ohio deputy attorney general, former U.S. Department of Justice spokesman, and current partner at Isaac, Wiles, Burkholder & Teetor – replied, “we are not ‘friends from out of town,’ everyone here is from Franklin County.”

Weaver argued that based on prior OEC rulings, the commission could find no probable cause for a violation because of the established concept of “innocent construction,” which calls for regulators to assume good faith when deciding how an election statement should be interpreted.

Little and Pikelny argued that the mailer intentionally misled voters into believing that overall Franklin County property taxes would increase by 105 percent, prompting Weaver to wonder aloud how they missed the “giant letters” on the mailer referencing the zoo levy in particular.

“Little’s writing his own ads,” Weaver joked.

Weaver insisted that the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals 2004 ruling in Service Employees International Union District 1199 v. Ohio Elections Commission required OEC to dismiss Pikelny’s complaint.

He asked the commission, “When’s the last time you saw a case with the same set of facts, and a court above you telling you what to do?”

During deliberations, Lynn Grimshaw, a political independent, said that Weaver’s explanation of SEIU v. OEC convinced him.

Adding that he was having difficulty seeing anything that distinguished the two cases from one another, Grimshaw voted to find no probable cause of a campaign law violation and to dismiss the complaint “rather than waste more time.”

Grimshaw’s motion passed 2-1, sending Pikelny away empty-handed.

AFP Ohio director Eli Miller said that he felt his group’s victory in the quasi-judicial hearing was ultimately a win for everyone.

“This decision is absolutely a win for Franklin County residents because it allows them to learn more from both sides of this issue and make an educated decision on May 6,” Miller told Media Trackers. “Some Franklin County residents have definitely felt that their voice was being silenced for opposing this proposed tax hike.”

“That is what prompted us to get involved and attempt to make sure their perspective was heard,” he noted.

Miller added that “as with any tax increase or proposed tax increase, those who can least afford it are affected the most. In this case, those who can least afford it are probably also the least likely to visit the zoo and experience what their additional tax dollars are paying for.”

NBC 4 in Columbus reported on April 29 that a SurveyUSA poll found Franklin County voters oppose the zoo tax hike 56 percent to 36 percent.

The post Ohio Elections Panel Dismisses Complaint Against Zoo Levy Mailer appeared first on Media Trackers.